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With the kids well into the school year, chances are good you may be spending Saturday mornings cheering them on from the sidelines. School, intramural and community athletics are a great way to keep children active and involved. Being part of a team, getting regular exercise and forging what can be life-long friendships are all benefits of organized sports. With the fun, though, comes the chance for injury.
“Something we see more of as a result of year-round sports involvement is what’s called ‘overuse’ injury,” says Erin Marcotsis, MD, from Barnett Family Practice, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. And, these are just what they sound like: injuries or physical stresses from repetitive motion like pitching a baseball or hitting a tennis ball. “An overuse injury develops slowly over time due to repetitive stress on tendons, muscles, bones or joints,” adds Dr. Marcotsis.
With school sports kicking into high gear, the risk for injury is increased. “Young athletes who pick up their sport in the fall where they left off in the spring, without adequate preparation for the upcoming season, can easily develop overuse injuries during the first weeks back,” says Dr. Marcotsis.
Unlike many acute injuries (sprains, fractures, bone breaks), overuse injuries are very preventable if players, coaches and even Mom and Dad make a commitment to educating themselves on prevention. “Coaches and parents of young athletes need to understand that repetitive motion or quick and frequent muscle contractions on an immature skeleton can result in injury,” says Dr. Marcotsis. “Even high school athletes are not as physically mature as adults.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends that children play only one sporting activity no more than five days a week, taking at least one day off. Giving children an additional two to three months off per year from a particular sport will also allow the body to heal. The council also recommends playing multiple sports, especially before puberty. Children who play multiple sports have fewer injuries and continue to play longer and at higher levels than children who specialize in one sport before puberty.
“In all of youth sports, proper form is the best way to prevent overuse injury,” says Dr. Marcotsis. Improper technique puts unsafe pressure on tendons, bones and joints. With repeated improper technique, a young athlete’s injury risk is high – and often remains high until either the form is corrected by a knowledgeable coach or an injury is sustained that sidelines the athlete.
The primary care doctors at Carolinas HealthCare System can help your young athlete get (and stay) on the path to wellness. We’re here to help with injuries and here to help prevent injuries. And, if a specialist is needed, we can refer you to a specialist within our vast system of healthcare professionals.
Call 844-881-2180 or complete an online request form to find a doctor near you.